The American Civil War at the strategic level
Brian Morris
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Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
-- Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

In our history there are speeches and then there are speeches. I think if most people were to list the 3 greatest speeches in American history they would include the words above in their list. I myself can think of few speeches that with so few words said so much so well.

The American Civil War was without question the most important event in our nation's history after the Revolution. It redefined everything and it's effects are still strongly felt even today. Before the war people called themselves New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Virginians and North Carolinians. After the war those dropped and people started calling themselves Americans. I think that alone describes the effect that the war had on the nation as a whole in terms of it's identity.

I can think of no war in history where the opposing military leaders knew each other so well. Where literally you found fathers and sons, brothers or best friends on the opposite sides of a battlefield. It's one of the reasons I find the war so interesting. It's the personal connections across the lines. General Ulysses S Grant for example married future adversary James Longstreet's cousin and Longstreet was the best man at the wedding with Richard Ewell attending as well. Union General Winfield Hancock was best friends with Confederate General Henry Heth before the war. Heth and Hancock would face off toe to toe a number of times during the war including the Second Battle of Ream's Station where Heth soundly defeated his friend. Their close friendship resumed after the war and Heth was a pallbearer at Hancock's funeral.

As much as I find the battles of interest, it is the overall war at a strategic level that I find more interesting to wargame. I'm not sure why but I have always found strategic level games more interesting than the tactical level. So for example with WW II I'm much more into Europe Engulfed than Advance Squad Leader or something of that nature.

The problem is there really aren't a ton of strategic level Civil War games. There are a ton of games for the battles and even entire campaigns but few that truly cover the war at the strategic level. So I thought I would toss out some titles of those that do and see what others are out there I may have missed.

I still think the best strategic level Civil War game has yet to be created. In my mind the best would be a combination of the system of dealing with generals in this game, the card driven system and the combat and economic system used in Europe Engulfed. For me that would be the perfect Strategic Civil War game.
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1. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:712]
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In my mind the best strategic level American Civil War game to date. The card driven system is great for bringing in the outside elements of the war into the game play. No war takes place in a vacuum and the Civil War is especially true in that area. Politics and outside events had a strong effect on the military aspects of the conflict. From the Emancipation Proclamation to the draft riots. They all had a direct effect on the war and this system does a great job in bringing that into the game play.

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2. Board Game: Bobby Lee [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:3214]
 
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I love this game system for how it simulates the logistical challenges of the war in such a manageable fashion. I once heard it said that amateurs talk strategy while professionals talk logistics. The American Civil War was a war of logistics. Yes you can march a bunch of men down a road 20 miles a day but how do you supply those men when they reach the end of the road? Men have to have food and their guns have to have ammunition. It takes logistics to make an army survive.

First time I played this game I was so impressed. The game's designers truly understood civil war logistics and they created a great game taking that into account.
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3. Board Game: Sam Grant [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:6217]
 
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The Western Theater version of Bobby Lee. Great game and it reflects amazingly well how important the rivers were to the war in the west. While the rivers in the east mainly ran east-west the ones in the west run mostly north and south. The Union needed to control the rivers so that they could transport troops and supplies. In this game the Union has to take out the Confederate strongholds along the rivers which is accurate to the actual conflict.
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4. Board Game: The Price of Freedom: The American Civil War 1861-1865 [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:5341]
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New game I have not played. The artwork is downright stunning. Likely the best artwork I have ever seen for a game on the Civil War. I like the cards and how like with For The People it brings in the outside political and social world into the military conflict. I am unsure however when I look at the game map how much strategic movement there is. There for example is only one space between Richmond and Washington. Not sure how that all works but I definitely would play this one given a chance.
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5. Board Game: The Civil War [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:909]
Brian Morris
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The predecessor to For The People in many ways. Very good system. I use to play this but find that I prefer For The People in it's place.
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6. Board Game: Blue vs. Gray [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2858]
Brian Morris
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Card game of the war. I have this but haven't played it yet. Need to sit down one day and truly try to figure it out.
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7. Board Game: A House Divided [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:947]
Brian Morris
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Been trying and trying to trade for the new Phalanx Games edition with no luck. A really great game.
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8. Board Game: A House Divided: The Brothers War [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
Brian Morris
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Never played this one...or really even heard of it.
 
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9. Board Game: C.S.A. America's Civil War 1861-1865 [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:9907]
Brian Morris
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New game I'm not familiar with from a new company I'm not familiar with either.
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10. Board Game: Grand Army of the Republic [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:12003]
Brian Morris
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Old Task Force Game. Played it once years ago and wasn't all that impressed.
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11. Board Game: Yankee Thunder, Rebel Lightning [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked]
Brian Morris
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Magazine game by Tetsuya Nakamura who designed Victory Lost and Fire in the Sky.
 
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12. Board Game: The War for the Union [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:5919]
David Dockter
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Minnesota
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Own, but haven't had the time to play. Graphics are the usual high quality Clash of Arms standard.
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13. Board Game: War between the States (first edition) [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:7240]
David Dockter
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Minnesota
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A classic SPI monster. Owned and played - but only once.
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14. Board Game: War Between The States (second edition) [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:7282]
David Dockter
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Minnesota
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Sounds like a straight reprint of the original by Decision Games.
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15. Board Game: The American Civil War [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:10796]
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Don't know anything about it, but of course there had to be an SPI S&T game on the subject.

From the ratings, don't expect it to be taking any titles from any other game, except perhaps "Most Mediocre".

There's also a second S&T game during the TSR years with the same title. No idea if it's a rework or not. (The counters kind of look like it could be, though the credits argue otherwise.)

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/5964
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16. Board Game: Battle-Cry [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:11475]
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Okay, calling this a "wargame" is really stretching a point (I can hear the cries of 'pasted on theme' echoing from nearly five decades away), but think its existence is still interesting from a gaming history point of view. With a publication date of 1961, it was obviously meant to cash in on the centennial.
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17. Board Game: Battle Cry of Freedom [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:7728]
John Hooper
United States
Germantown
Maryland
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A card game which uses no mapboard. Each player has a separate deck. Cards have multiple uses (such as a battle modifier vs. a strategic effect). A very different and interesting take on the ACW. Probably only of interest to completists or someone who has not found a strategic ACW game he really likes.
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18. Board Game: Civil War [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:11810]
John Hooper
United States
Germantown
Maryland
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One of the earliest Avalon Hill games. Hex-based, but uses pawns instead of the traditional cardboard counters.
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19. Board Game: The American Civil War [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:13120]
John Hooper
United States
Germantown
Maryland
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Eagle Games product with lots of cool miniatures and a huge mapboard. Unfortunately, the rules are a mess.
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20. Board Game: The Civil War [Average Rating:2.81 Overall Rank:14976]
David Dockter
United States
Minnesota
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How could we forget this one? A "classic" from FGA.

Tried to do a search on BGG - and it didn't show up for some reason as Brother verses Brother. I remember seeing at the store and almost buying it. The owner of the store, The Source, in Minneapolis, let me look at the rules first. I went straight to the supply rules - which usually divides the wheat from the chaff (along naval rules in a strategic game - they almost always suck).

There were no supply rules. I put the game back on the shelf.

A review of the game ....

http://members.tripod.com/~RichardHBerg/brog3.html
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21. Board Game: Civil War Game 1863 [Average Rating:5.83 Overall Rank:12054]
Phillip Heaton
United States
Springfield
Virginia
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A golden oldie, or maybe a moldy oldie, hard to tell. The historical accuracy is somewhat (only somewhat?!?) lacking, but it can be a fun game to play.
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22. Board Game: The War Between the States [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
Lloyd Krassner
United States
Palm Coast
Florida
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ACS Grand Strategic Level Card Game. Quick playing. It hits the high points.
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23. Board Game: American Civil War 1861-1865 [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:9302]
suPUR DUEper
United States
Villa Hills
Kentucky
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From S&T #93.
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24. Board Game: De Bull Run à Appomatox [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Richard Marshall
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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25. Board Game: To Save The Union [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
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A strategic level block game; low-to-medium complexity with a simplified CDG system.

The game begins just before the battle of Shiloh and ends shortly after the 1864 presidential election.

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